‘You don’t realise when you’re young,’ says my mum, ‘how quickly life goes.’
‘Of course I realise!’ I say. ‘I’m 25, and I’ve done nothing, and my life is slipping through my fingers…’
‘But you’ve done loads!’ she says. ‘You’ve done a degree, and you’ve travelled, and you’ve written two books, one of which you’re now rewriting. You’ve had all sorts of experiences, some of them good, some of them bad.’
Of course. Of course. I am being too hard on myself again. It would be so easy, now, for me to paint a different, all-too-familiar picture: 2:2, not to many places, not published. But I have to stop. I’ve done loads. I’ve had, if not an always-good life, then at least a varied one, and I am still so, so young. Even if the time goes quickly, there is plenty of it.
For a little while now, I’ve been suspicious that my terrible memory is leading me to write the same blog post over and over again, and I’m in danger of doing that again today. It’s not quite true, but there is a definite theme to my blog, a distinct disquiet, a winter of discontent.
Now is not the winter of my discontent
I was planning a post bemoaning that this is not how I envisaged my life would be, turning 25. (I don’t know quite when I made these envisions, but they certainly only grew so strong after I became ill.) I made a large quantity of intensely self-critical notes, not only specifying things like how many years it’s been since I moved back in with my parents and all the ghastly things that have happened during that time, but also regretting that I didn’t make more of my wellness when I had it. I should have done this, not done that, not been so scared, made the most. But I am learning more and more just how bad it is for me, and just how detrimental it is to recovery, to dwell on past misfortunes, to put down past achievements, and to renounce the present.
Writing that last paragraph felt so unlike me that I was a little revulsed by it. But I need to learn that I am not that revulsion, nor am I these hateful, dismissive thoughts I so often have
I hate being ill. I am so frustrated. That’s never going to change, and nor should it, for it is this dissatisfaction that drives me to do everything in my power to get well again. But I cannot dismiss this phase in my life as a time only of waiting. I cannot tell myself that this is a time to be unhappy, because this isn’t the life I want – but that one day I will get the life I want, and only then I am allowed to be happy.
One day, I will get the life I want. But I can be happy now.
I went through a long phase of not being happy about my birthday when I was younger. I didn’t want the attention, and I didn’t like the feeling of things changing, of time moving forward, of eras ending. A few years ago, I at last reached a brief pinnacle where I thought I might be able to be happy about them again. And then I got ill, and suddenly 23, 24, 25 started to represent years ‘wasted’, ages where I ought not to be still jobless and living at home, ages where others have achieved ‘so much more than me’. Little good comes from me comparing myself to others, but if I am going to, I will say this: some of my peers have their own homes by now. Some are in brilliant careers. Many have travelled to places I have only dreamed of. Outside the circle of those I know, there are people my age with six-figure book deals, hundreds of thousands of followers online, huge spheres of influence. But there are also plenty of people my age who, like me, have none of these things. And that is ok, because life is not a race; we move at the pace it has dealt us, and at the pace which works best for us.
This year, I am going to be happy about my birthday
So this is me, turning 25. Still here. Still ill. Two steps forward, one step back. I am about to embark on a (rather daunting) new treatment plan, and a crucial part of this will be to stop beating myself up about the past, and to strive for contentment in the present. I can’t tell you this is going to be easy to do, especially given how difficult some of the treatment is. I am itching for it to be over already. The nasty thoughts will probably continue to rattle around inside my head, but I will try to combat them. I cannot bring myself to be any more optimistic than that. And I will strive not to write this post again (again).
Disclaimer: the header is actually a picture of a cake that I made for my mum’s birthday back in February